Renaming The Tombs for Kerik bad move for Rudy Giuliani
Monday, November 12th 2007, 4:00 AM
Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik stood together through many crises.
Three months after 9/11, then mayor Giuliani renamed Manhattan Detention Complex (The Tombs) the Bernard B. Kerik Complex.
The car takes the right off Centre St., comes to a stop beneath the pedestrian walkway connecting one building of The Tombs to the other. The correction officer behind the wheel rolls down her window, and as soon as you tell her you are from the newspaper, before you can even ask a question, she says, "Kerik, right?"
"Where was his name?"
Now she points a finger toward the walkway above her.
"Right up there," she says. "Been gone more than a year."
There are two signs up there now, one on each outside wall, both reading the same way: "Manhattan Detention Complex." It is one of the most famous jailhouses anywhere, and there was a time when its official name wasn't grand enough for Rudy Giuliani, back when he was the hero mayor of New York and his police commissioner - the one indicted on 16 counts the other day - had to be a hero, too.
That is why Giuliani renamed The Tombs after Bernie Kerik in December 2001. Six years later, that is more interesting than ever, a jail being named after Kerik, just because one of these days he could end up inside one.
First, Giuliani made Kerik - who used to drive him around on weekends - correction commissioner in New York, after Kerik had run one jail in his life, in Passaic County. Then Giuliani made him police commissioner, though Kerik had just a total of eight years on the books as a cop.
So there was Bernie Kerik in charge of the NYPD when the planes hit on Sept. 11, and suddenly he was perceived to be almost as brave and noble as his boss just by standing there next to him. Suddenly, there was this idea that the two of them had somehow looked terrorism in the eye and stared it down, when neither one of them did anything of the kind. All they did was help pick up the pieces along with everybody else.
Three months later, The Tombs became the "Bernard B. Kerik Complex." The first city jail ever to be turned into a shrine. For Bernie Kerik. Who now gets indicted for conspiracy and mail fraud and wire fraud and filing false tax returns and making false statements to the government and putting phony information on a loan application. Tammany Hall produced cops like this.
It is worth noting that these indictments run through Kerik's career working alongside the current front-runner for the Republican nomination for President like a broken-field back in football. Run from the time when Kerik was Giuliani's correction commissioner, through his time as police commissioner, through the time when Kerik went into business with Giuliani in his security firm, Giuliani Partners.
The government's book on Kerik, the one U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia officially threw at him the other day, goes right through the time when Giuliani picked up the phone and called President Bush and did everything but nominate Kerik as secretary of Homeland Security all by himself.
When Giuliani is questioned about all that now, he sounds so weak you can imagine him blowing away in a strong wind, making it sound as if everything he missed on Kerik was some slight "vetting" problem.
If Giuliani couldn't see whom he had riding in the car with him, backseat or front seat, then what does he see when he looks around at the people closest to him?
"I am proud to have had Bernard Kerik in my administration," Giuliani said when he renamed The Tombs. "And delighted that the renaming of this complex will serve as a lasting reminder of his many important achievements."
Yesterday, beneath the place at the jail where Kerik's name used to go, the correction officer said, "Where you going next, that love nest down there at Ground Zero where [Kerik] used to shack up with Judith Regan?"
She was talking about one of the apartments for emergency workers where Kerik used to go with Regan, his publisher at HarperCollins, for somewhat more than work on punctuation and grammar. All the while Giuliani was treating Kerik like some fellow legend of the city.
Now, six years later, comes a different list of achievements for Kerik, nearly spit out by Garcia the other day. Then Kerik was in front of the courthouse in White Plains - the same one where Olympic sprinter Marion Jones sobbed as she, took, admitted to being a fraud, when it came to steroids - shamelessly invoking the memory of Sept. 11. But then he has learned from the best.
"The worst challenges until this time were my challenges during and after 9/11," Kerik said.
When the law first started to close in on him, Kerik was quoted this way in New York magazine: "I believe my successes over my 30-year career outweigh the errors in judgment."
Of course it is a theme Giuliani hits all the time when talking about his own life, especially a second term as mayor that had become such a joke and a mess until the planes hit.
Now, officially, from the government Giuliani thinks he can run, comes a different kind of mess: Bernie Kerik, the bindle stiff Giuliani handpicked to run the biggest police force in the country. Right before the two of them went into business together.
If Giuliani somehow does get himself elected, he would be better off picking the names of cabinet members out of a hat.